"How to Train Your Dragon" Review

Title: How to Train Your Dragon
Director: Chris Sanders, Dean DeBlois
Studio: DreamWorks Animation
Genre(s): Action
Rated: PG (For sequences of intense action and some scary images, and brief mild language)

After years of living in Pixar’s shadow DreamWorks Animation has finally delivered a film that rival’s the animation king of CGI films. “How To Train Your Dragon” tells the simple story of a young Viking named Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) who is considered weak by the rest of the Vikings for being unable to hold his own in a fight with dragons who destroy their town on a weekly basis (the town is old but the houses are new). His dad is the leader of the Vikings named Stoick (Gerard Butler) who - like most fathers in animated films - considers his son to be awkward and a bit of a disappointment. No, he’s not odd in that he’s gay, because he has a crush on the feisty Viking girl Astrid (America Ferrera), but odd because he has no violent traits.

One night he does manage to shoot down a dragon though but can’t bring himself to kill it. The dragon takes a liking to Hiccup and the two become best friends as Hiccup learns more about dragons and why they do what they do. This is all predictable stuff and surely it sounds like something that should go straight to video, but Dreamworks seems to have learned some hard lessons about storytelling since they made “Kung Fu Panda.” More importantly though is that Chris Sanders is a co-director and co-writer for the film. Him, along with co-director Dean DeBloise, both worked for Disney at one point making some of Disney’s biggest hits.

More importantly they were key to making “Lilo & Stitch,” another movie about misunderstood people/creatures. They have an understanding for what makes characters believable and likable, and all the principle characters are people we like and want to see succeed. To top it all off the animation is breathtaking, with the scenes of flight and fancy that have to be seen to be believed. People with vertigo would do well to consider their condition before watching this thing, as it loops and twirls with magnificent beauty more then once. If there is one main drawback to the movie it’s of the voice cast. While the principle actors are all good and do well with their roles, I’m starting to get annoyed at DreamWorks and similar companies hiring big-name voice talent for nothing parts.

I can see why dedicated voice actors dislike the trend DreamWorks started with “Shrek.” Why hire actors like Jonah Hill, T. J. Miller, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, and Kristen Wiig to voice characters that are less then spectacular. In this economy wouldn’t DreamWorks do better to hire no-name voice actors that will do just as good a job and save the producers a few million dollars? Oh well, I digress. The point is “How To Train Your Dragon” is a wonderful, charming, and exciting movie. It will make Dreamworks a more loved company based on this one film alone, and if their future films are more like this then I greatly anticipate seeing them. In fact, this movie si so good I'm starting to regret giving "Alice In Wonderland" a passing grade, which was more inventive but had much less heart. Oh well, live and learn.

Parents, outside of some mild violence I think this is perfectly fine for kids and could have escaped with a G-rating. Recommended for ages 5 and up.